- Seamounts are underwater mountains of volcanic origin that rise from the seafloor. They are regarded as hotspots of marine biodiversity and are home to many endemic species.
- Seamount biodiversity and ecosystems face a number of threats including deep sea bottom fishing and deep sea mining.
- Damage to seamounts and their overexploitation can have widespread consequences on ocean health, food security, medicine and other benefits that oceans provide to humans.
- Many aspects of seamounts are poorly understood: fewer than 300 out of 200,000 existing seamounts have been explored so far.
- There is an urgent need to ensure seamount conservation through measures such as marine protected areas. Threats to seamount ecosystems need to be taken into account when developing environmental impact assessments of activities that may affect them. A clear set of rules is also needed for sample sharing and use of genetic resources derived from areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Seamounts play an important and only partially understood role in marine ecosystems, extending well beyond the seamounts themselves. Damage to seamounts and their overexploitation can have widespread consequences on ocean health, food security, medicine and other benefits that oceans provide to humans. Inversely, their conservation can help advance towards several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including SDG2 – to end hunger and achieve food security, and SDG14 – to conserve and sustainably use the oceans.
Two-thirds of fish stocks in areas beyond national jurisdiction are being fished beyond sustainable limits and this is also affecting fish yields in exclusive economic zones (EEZs) – zones in which states have sovereign rights and duties related to the use and management of natural resources. Overfishing in the oceans threatens global food security as it disrupts marine communities and creates an imbalance between species, with commercially-important fishes unable to replenish their stocks.
The high level of biological endemism of seamount ecosystems and the fact that seamounts remain largely unexplored mean that they may contain new genetic resources that could be used to develop new medicines.